Monday, August 24, 2009

The Sky Isn't Falling...Yet

Saturday night’s thrashing at the hands of the Chicago Bears was painful to watch, to say the least. The Giants were dominated in all aspects of the game and looked out-matched, out-hustled and on many plays, out of place. Both sides of the ball put on an embarrassing display, which frustrated the coach and fans alike.

Tom Coughlin will have a lot to say to his players following Saturday's display.

Some were quick to proclaim the apocalypse is nigh and were polishing their pitchforks to storm Jerry Reese’s castle; others casually dismissed the loss with an “It’s just the preseason…” and another beer to numb the pain. My take: put the pitchforks away before somebody pulls a Leeroy Jenkins, and hold off on that next Duff Dry, Homer. You need to keep things in perspective…

Preseason or Not

First, it IS only the preseason, so the score doesn’t matter. (Thank God.) But even in the preseason, the results matter, meaning the product teams put on the field. Saturday, I don’t think anyone would buy what the Giants were selling.

“Well, we were missing a ton of starters. That’s not what we’ll look like come Week 1. No big deal,” some would claim.

Well, we were missing the same amount of guys in Week 1 and we dominated the opposition. At some point you need to be able to rely on your 3rd or 4th Cornerback, or back-up Safety, or back-up Guard, to hang with the first teamers. Guys go down…we’re learning that now, unfortunately. Which players were out Week 2 may have been a factor. I think the absence of Antonio Pierce and Kenny Phillips affected the defense early on. Chicago got some momentum and the Giants couldn’t recover.

But the injury list is not getting shorter, and it might be a few weeks into the regular season before the team is at full strength, if ever. Perhaps the worst thing to come out of Saturday’s game is that third-year DT and Field Goal team snapper, Jay Alford, has a torn MCL and partially torn ACL following a collision with a teammate. He will rehab for two weeks before being reevaluated...

Anyway, back to the field. The Giants performance on Saturday was not a reflection of the talent (or lack thereof) on it, but rather a lack of intensity and fundamental execution: issues that can be fixed, qualities the Giants possess. Big Blue was owned at the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. The Linebackers and DBs were often out of position. The O-line looked old and slow and the backs didn’t do their part in the blocking game.

You can’t gauge the passing game if the Quarterbacks have no pass protection. You can’t play good defense if the D-line is running all over the place, or getting pushed all over the place. Carl Banks repeatedly pointed out the D-line not maintaining their “lane integrity.” You could see it on multiple plays…when we failed to get to the quarterback and gave up big plays as a result.

Hang in there, Eli.

Not All Bad

But on the positive side, there were a number of plays where players were off by a split-second: Manning’s late pass to Manningham, Dockery’s blitz and attempted run stuff, Michael Johnson and Corey Webster making plays on the ball. These are timing issues that teams should be dealing with now, and problems that will hopefully be resolved this week.

There were some bigger positives to take away too (though you had to look for them). Manningham looks like he is emerging as the number 3 WR on this team. Rookies Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden both made some nice catches. All three running backs looked very solid, and Eli looked poised, again, despite a few errant throws. On the defensive side of the ball, Jonathan Goff and Gerris Wilkinson both made strong cases to be on the final 53 come September.

Freight train a-comin'! Woo wooooo!

Lesson Learned

In the end, I believe this will go down as a valuable learning experience. Chicago needed to show something after a lousy performance in Week 1. The Giants were coming off a short week and probably did not invest much mental energy in getting ready for the game. Sometimes it takes a good slap in the face to wake up and realize that no matter how talented or experienced, in the NFL you can’t just put a helmet on and expect things to go your way.

DE Justin Tuck offered his take after the game. "I think this loss right here will wake some people up...It's human nature, but it's easy for us to look at all the talent we have on this football team, especially on defense, you kind of get complacent. In a way I'm kind of glad we played like that, because I know for a fact we got a bunch of guys on the sideline that don't ever want to see that. We don't ever want to have that feeling."

The Giants will respond and be ready for the annual Week 3 preseason game against the Jets. The third preseason game is typically regarded as the practice run for the regular season. I trust the Giants will make a much better showing in the cross-town showdown. If they don't, “It’s the preseason” won’t work much longer...

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1 comment:

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